Lewis Hamilton takes his third Grand Prix victory of the season at Spa-Francorchamps following an incident-packed race.
The McLaren driver made a great start and despite running off the track during the shower period twice – at the Bus Stop chicane and at Rivage – this victory proved crucial to his championship prospects. He now leads the standings with 182 points, three ahead of Mark Webber, who recovered from a poor getaway to finish in second.
Robert Kubica took an excellent third for Renault but it could have been second. During his final pitstop, the Polish driver slid in the wet pitlane and that mistake cost him three championship points.
At the start, Mark Webber’s anti-stall system kicked-in and that brief moment allowed Lewis Hamilton to take the lead. The Red Bull started in pole position but even before the first corner – La Source – Webber was down to sixth position.
Once in the lead, Lewis Hamilton was never challenged at the front – despite a brief burst of rain that caused him to run off the track at the Bus Stop chicane on the opening lap.
Lewis pulled away from the rest at a rate of more than half a second per lap as the track quickly dried early on. He had an advantage of eleven seconds over Robert Kubica until the heavens open again on lap 35.
Pushing a little too hard on the slicks when the track was wet, the 2008 Formula One world champion slid wide at Rivage and it looked like he was about to retire in the gravel, but luckily he avoided the tyre barrier and was able to drive back on the track.
Lewis pitted for intermediates at the end of that lap, as did the second-placed Renault of Kubica and Webber, who was in third.
Webber emerged in second following a mistake by Kubica. The Renault driver overshot his pitbox and that mistake cost him a handful of seconds while his mechanics attempted to change his tyres.
After a second safety car period – which began on lap 38 when Fernando Alonso crashed out exiting Malmedy – Hamilton was able to pull away from Webber to the chequered flag.
By crashing out, Alonso’s title ambitions has hit a major blow and following his disastrous start to the race in which Rubens Barrichello smashed his Williams on the opening lap, it was unfortunate for the Ferrari driver to retire after fighting his way back up to seventh.
Taking part in his 300th Grand Prix, Rubens Barrichello didn’t even finish the first lap at Spa, after losing control under braking at the Bus Stop chicane and crashing into Alonso.
Both Jenson Button and Sebastian Vettel also had their championship hopes dashed, with the former suffering with front wing damage on the opening lap. That lost in downforce meant Button held a four-car train.
Seeking the opportunity to pass the McLaren, Sebastian Vettel got a run on the reigning world champion exiting Blanchimont on lap 16, but lost control of his Red Bull under braking and slammed into the side of his rival at the Bus Stop chicane – putting Button out of the race.
The young German broke his front wing and had to pit for repairs. He then received a drive-through penalty for causing the incident and later suffered a puncture after colliding with Vitantonio Liuzzi’s Force India on his way to a lapped P15. Not a great result for Sebastian Vettel with five trips to the pits as well…
Through the mayhem came Felipe Massa to take fourth in his Ferrari and Adrian Sutil – after pulling off a superb pass on Michael Schumacher – to fifth in his Force India.
Nico Rosberg was sixth for Mercedes GP after forcing his way by team-mate Michael Schumacher at Les Combes with three laps to the flag. The pair actually made contact in the same corner in the opening part of the Grand Prix.
Sauber’s Kamui Kobayashi, Vitaly Petrov (Renault) and Vitantonio (Force India) completed the top ten.
So heading into the Spa weekend, five drivers were separated by twenty points. After 44 chaotic laps, Lewis Hamilton and Mark Webber took advantage and with six races left, it will be fascinating who will have upper hand with the pair split by three championship points.
Race results from Spa-Francorchamps, 44 laps:
1. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1h29m04.268s
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault +1.571
3. Kubica Renault +3.493
4. Massa Ferrari +8.264
5. Sutil Force India-Mercedes +9.094
6. Rosberg Mercedes +12.359
7. Schumacher Mercedes +15.548
8. Kobayashi Sauber-Ferrari +16.678
9. Petrov Renault +23.851
10. Liuzzi Force India-Mercedes +34.831
11. De la Rosa Sauber-Ferrari +36.019
12. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari +39.895
13. Alguersuari Toro Rosso-Ferrari +49.457*
14. Hulkenberg Williams-Cosworth +1 lap
15. Vettel Red Bull-Renault +1 lap
16. Kovalainen Lotus-Cosworth +1 lap
17. Di Grassi Virgin-Cosworth +1 lap
18. Glock Virgin-Cosworth +1 lap
19. Trulli Lotus-Cosworth +1 lap
20. Yamamoto HRT-Cosworth +2 laps
*Twenty-second penalty for cutting the chicane
Fastest lap: Hamilton, 1m49.069s
Alonso Ferrari 38 laps
Button McLaren-Mercedes 16 laps
Senna HRT-Cosworth 6 laps
Barrichello Williams-Cosworth 1 lap
World Championship standings, round 13:
1. Hamilton 182
2. Webber 179
3. Vettel 151
4. Button 147
5. Alonso 141
6. Massa 109
7. Kubica 104
8. Rosberg 102
9. Sutil 45
10. Schumacher 44
11. Barrichello 30
12. Kobayashi 21
13. Petrov 19
14. Liuzzi 12
15. Hulkenberg 10
16. Buemi 7
17. De la Rosa 6
18. Alguersuari 4
1. Red Bull-Renault 330
2. McLaren-Mercedes 329
3. Ferrari 250
4. Mercedes 146
5. Renault 123
6. Force India-Mercedes 57
7. Williams-Cosworth 40
8. Sauber-Ferrari 27
9. Toro Rosso-Ferrari 11
Next race: Italian Grand Prix, Monza. September 10-12.